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PALIN TO THE RESCUE!

The backlash continues to grow over SB 1070, the immigration law signed by Gov. Jan Brewer at the end of the legislative session.

The city councils of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle have all declared boycotts against the Grand Canyon State. Pasadena has condemned the new law. Resorts are finding it harder to drum up new business, because conventioneers want to avoid controversy.

Recognizing that Arizona has an image problem, Brewer has revealed her secret weapon in the effort to rebrand Arizona: She's brought in fellow Republican Sarah Palin to let America know that the law is OK, and the state is a great place to visit.

Now that's the way to put out a fire—toss a little gasoline on it!

Palin is undeniably popular in some GOP circles, but she's a polarizing political figure who is despised by folks on the left—and folks on the left are the ones who don't like the new immigration law.

So we don't imagine bringing in Sarah will do much to help the state, although Brewer's decision to create a new website with her mug next to Sarah's will probably aid her re-election campaign.

We have a few ideas for improving the tourism industry: (1) Stop cutting funding for the Department of Tourism. (2) Stop closing state parks. (3) Stop closing highway rest stops.

Speaking of SB 1070: Research 2000 did a survey of Arizona voters earlier this month examining the gubernatorial race, along with Sen. John McCain's re-election campaign.

The poll showed that McCain held a 13-point lead over Democrat Rodney Glassman, but that Glassman was trailing McCain's GOP primary opponent, former Congressman J.D. Hayworth, by only one point.

But Democrats shouldn't get their hopes up: McCain was ahead of Hayworth by 12 points, although if our senior senator keeps putting out ads like the "danged fence" disaster, he could find himself embracing retirement after the August primary.

The survey also showed that Brewer—who was easily ahead of her GOP rivals—was trailing Democrat Terry Goddard by six points. That remains a volatile contest; recent Rasmussen surveys have showed Brewer ahead of Goddard. And given how much time there is between now and November, we're not reading much into any of these surveys.

But the more interesting detail from the Research 2000 poll was the collapse of Hispanic support for Republican candidates in the wake of the passage of SB 1070.

In their general-election races, McCain had the support of just 10 percent of Hispanic voters, and Brewer had the support of just 9 percent.

Sure, it's just one poll, and future surveys may show that Latino support for Republicans will recover. But if Republicans have lost Hispanic support in Arizona, that doesn't bode well for them in the future—provided, of course, that Hispanics start voting in larger numbers.

In other SB 1070 news: The American Civil Liberties Union, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the NAACP and other civil-rights groups have filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court to block the new law before it goes into effect in late July.

The lawsuit says SB 1070 interferes with federal law and would lead to racial profiling, despite wording in the legislation that prohibits police from using race as a basis of reasonable suspicion.


INDEPENDENT'S DAY

Former state lawmaker Ted Downing has abandoned his Democratic Party roots to challenge state Sen. Paula Aboud.

Downing, a UA anthropology professor who served two terms as a Democrat in the House in midtown District 28, lost a bid for the Senate in 2006 when he challenged Aboud in the Democratic primary.

Downing wants a rematch with Aboud and had been running as a Democratic candidate. But he recently decided to run as an independent, which allows him to avoid the possibility of losing the Democratic primary.

"I feel like I've changed religions or something," Downing says.

He explains that the move was driven by the theme of his campaign, which is based on implementing a system of nonpartisan elections statewide and merging the Arizona House of Representatives and Senate into a single body.

"We ran our numbers—because you don't want to do it if you can't win—and we realized that the numbers looked good," Downing says.

In the general election, Downing can campaign as having moved beyond politics. He can also benefit from his lingering name ID, pick up Democrats who would have supported him in the primary and possibly attract Republicans and independents who don't know him but want to vote against a Democrat.

Downing denies he was motivated by a concern that he didn't have much support in Democratic circles.

"I really believe that politics is not two-dimensional," Downing says. "It's not only right or left. People are multi-dimensional."

Downing may not be the only independent in the race. Green Party activist Dave Ewoldt, who has been a key player in recent Green campaigns for City Hall, is also collecting signatures to appear on the ballot as an independent.

Ewoldt helped Dave Croteau develop his 2007 mayoral campaign, which featured an emphasis on the Greens' 10 Key Values and a plan to make Tucson the waterless composting-toilet capital of the world.

Ewoldt has abandoned the Green Party label, even though it means collecting a lot more signatures. But you can expect him to hang on to the campaign template.


DOWNTOWN DELAYS

The City of Tucson and its Rio Nuevo project have been stung by plenty of criticism over giveaway development agreements for downtown projects that never materialized.

Way back in 2007, when he was still running Rio Nuevo, Greg Shelko told the Tucson Citizen: "We will be more rigorous with our management to make sure they conform to the terms."

A few months after Shelko made his vow, the City Council approved a development agreement for the El Mirador project on a city-owned lot at Stone Avenue and Franklin Street. The final plan called a high-rise complex that would include a hotel, condominiums and various commercial uses.

The city was supposed to sell the land to Town West Design Development for $700,000 within 21 months, and both sides had performance obligations spelled out in the agreement.

Almost 30 months later, the city still owns the vacant parcel, and neither side appears to have lived up to its end of the bargain. Downtown watchdogs are now chattering about what happens next.

City Attorney Mike Rankin says diplomatically: "The time frame for performance has expired, but technically, the agreement hasn't."

Jim Horvath of Town West says the development agreement remains in place, and "we're working on different aspects of the project. ... We're working to make it more economically viable. Student housing is one possibility."

Councilwoman Regina Romero said she wasn't impressed when that option was presented to her some time ago.

Horvath says that selling any residential project on the site will be difficult as long as train whistles continue to ring out from nearby crossings. While the city has talked about a silent zone along the downtown tracks for some time, not much progress has been made.

For early and late-breaking Skinny, visit The Range, our daily dispatch.

Follow the Skinny scribe on Twitter: @nintzel.

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